It seems–no matter where one turns these days–a Hollywood movie starring Ryan Gosling is close at hand. When did this guy get so ubiquitous? Doesn’t matter. The guy can really hold a frame. Which is very important when a guy his age is up against the likes of Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney.
Gosling plays Stephen Meyers (if that is a joke Twilight reference, kudos to the writers) the media manager on Governor Mike Morris’s campaign during a crucial primary in Ohio. Producer, director and co-writer George Clooney plays the Governor – a politician hoping to ascend to the highest office in the United States. And he plays him as George Clooney usual does—cool, mildly amused and totally in control of the space around himself. Hoffman is Paul, Stephen’s boss and Giamatti is Tom Duffy, the man running the other guy’s campaign. In a interesting aside about how politics is a boys’ game the two women in this movie play the roles of Molly the attractive intern (Evan Rachel Wood) and Ida the investigative journalist (Marisa Tomei).
An intertwining set of complications arise when Duffy makes moves to steal Meyers away from Morris’s campaign, and the intern seduces Meyers. We are shown several pieces of the puzzle that is but a small part of the entire political machinery, and Stephen is at the centre of it all.
With time and thought some parts of this narrative fall apart. Like the convenient receipt of a certain telephone call. Or the slightly fiddly cross-cutting between events inside the campaign war room and those in a clinic in another part of town. But all of that is not enough to distract from the overarching message of The ides Of March – an adaptation of an off-Broadway play entitled Farragut North. And the message is this—politics is a dirty business. Even the cleanest politician (or staff member) is dirtied at some point.
The performances are of a really high caliber in this movie. I began this piece by writing about how Ryan Gosling can hold a frame. Not only does he hold the frame, he owns it. The mischievous smile that betrays the fact that he is younger than most other men in the room, the tightening of his features when he realizes an unfortunate truth, the tears teasing the corners of his eyes when he learns of a betrayal, they all serve to confirm that the character of Stephen Meyers might have been nothing without Ryan Gosling. Lucky for all involved that he is the man who played the role. Clooney, Giamatti and Hoffman play supporting parts and they do them extremely well. Hoffman in particular is amazing as the political machinations veteran who has seen it all and knows exactly what to do in every situation.
Special mentions are due for the cinematography and musical score. Alexandre Desplat’s music never overwhelms the imagery; what it does, is nicely underscore key moments. And Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography is as understated and present as the key players in this movie.
The Ides Of March is not a feel-good movie, by any stretch of the imagination. But it makes a certain kind of sense, especially when held up as a (warped) mirror to the world we live in. The lesson reiterated is a simple one—you gotta make the best of the situation you find yourself in.
Major kudos to Mr. Clooney for pulling this one off, in this manner.